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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 June, 2005, 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK
European Press Review

The papers are full of gloom ahead of the EU summit in Brussels, with many predicting deadlock at the budget negotiations over demands for cuts to the UK rebate.

"Crisis summit in Europe" says a stark headline in French daily Le Figaro.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's refusal to back down on the rebate, as well as French President Jacques Chirac's rejection of any change to agricultural

subsidies, have rendered the talks a "pre-programmed failure", according to the paper.

'Obstinate'

Germany's Die Tageszeitung places the blame squarely on Mr Blair's shoulders, accusing him of being "obstinate" over the rebate.

"Iron Blair makes life difficult for Europe" the paper says in a headline, but quickly adds that one failed summit is unlikely to threaten the EU.

"In ten years' time the laughable dispute over the British rebate will have been completely forgotten" and will become "just another anecdote about the British".

The UK's position provokes even greater exasperation in Austria's Der Standard.

"Who really needs the Brits?" it asks, arguing that Mr Blair has manoeuvred himself onto the "sidelines of Europe" by linking cuts to the rebate to reforms to agricultural subsidies.

However, the paper adds, Britain's desire to leave the EU appears to have been diminished by its growing belief that it can turn the bloc into what the paper calls "little more than an economic community".

"The chance to change the club's rules in accordance with British wishes has never been greater," it says.

'Sick man of Europe'

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, on the other hand, believes President Chirac is in a far stronger position than Tony Blair, pointing out that there was unanimous agreement on the current system of agriculture subsidies in 2002.

"Traditionally, Europeans have shown little courage when it comes to refusing something to former Agriculture Minister Chirac," it says. "Blair stands alone against all other member states."

However, France's Liberation takes a different view on the two leaders' standings, arguing that Mr Chirac has been "much weakened" by his country's No to the European Constitution in May.

France, it adds, is now no longer able to galvanise a European project the paper believes is being paralysed by the "demons of nationalism".

"Its people have rejected the union as it is and its president, short of political breath, embodies little else than France as the sick man of Europe."

Thinking about Europe

The Slovak daily Pravda believes what the EU needs now is for its leaders "to openly admit their failure" and postpone the European Constitution.

The French and Dutch referendum defeats for the draft treaty, the paper warns, have revealed a deep gap in thinking between the politicians and the EU's peoples.

"The EU is more likely to survive without a constitution than without popular support," it concludes.

The Czech paper Pravo believes the eastern members must also react to the crisis:

"Worshipping Europe, agreeing with Europe and cheering Europe on is no longer enough - what is needed is for us to think in Europe, about Europe and for Europe."

In Poland, Gazeta Wyborcza points out that a failure of the budget talks will mean a delay in EU assistance programmes for the country.

"We could be losing over 5bn euros a year!" the paper cries. "For Poland, the fiasco of the EU summit is very unfavourable".

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.





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